Zelene Blancas, a Texas teacher whose kindness video went viral in 2018, has died of COVID-19. She was only 35. She had wanted her students to know that they’d always have a safe place in her classroom, and sought to teach them to be kind to one another.
Her Video About ‘Kindness Greetings’ Went Viral in 2018
The El Paso, Texas, teacher showed her students how to be kind to one another in a 2018 video that went viral. You can watch the video below.
The 2018 video currently shows more than 22 million views and it had more than 83,000 likes on Twitter, with nearly 26,000 comments.
The video showed first-graders giving each other hugs, handshakes, high-fives, and fist bumps as a series of greetings to each other at Dr. Sue Shook Elementary in El Paso, Texas. El Paso Times reported in 2018 that Blancas shared the video to show parents what their children were learning.
Each day, a student was chosen to give the greetings to other students as they left. Each student could choose one of the greeting options on the wall as they left. Blancas said she got the idea online from other teacher bloggers.
Blancas created the exercise to help students cope with emotions and conflict. She told El Paso Times about the video: “I want them to go home feeling like I’ll be waiting for them here the next day, or for them to feel like they’ll have a safe place to come back to and learn in a safe environment.”
She Died of COVID-19 at the Age of 35
Blancas was still teaching at Dr. Sue Shook Elementary School when she died of COVID-19, KOMO News reported. She was in an intensive care unit for seven weeks and had not been on campus.
According to a GoFundMe to raise money to pay for her medical expenses, she tested positive on October 20 despite taking precautions and was hospitalized on October 24. She was in the hospital so long that she exhausted all her paid time off, the GoFundMe shared. They raised more than $19,000 so far.
Blancas was also a member of Pinksocks Life, which also focused on spreading kindness, just like she had taught her students in the 2018 video.
After Blancas’ video went viral, Larry Gioia from Pennsylvania gifted her with pink socks. Her students were then all gifted with pink socks, and the subsequent year they gifted the new group of first graders with pink socks. That kindness trend has continued ever since.
Pinksocks Life is a non-profit that promotes “human connection around the world by socially supporting other public charities. The pinksocks movement empowers people from all walks of life to connect with anyone, anywhere, by creating a global tribe of pinksocks-wearing people who are focused on empathy, caring, and love,” the website notes.
Pinksocks wrote about her death on Facebook: “Today December 28, 2020 the world lost a beautiful human Zelene B. After 9 weeks in the ICU due to the virus, Ms. Blancas died. She is loved by many and will be missed by many. Sending love and comfort to her family. She is at peace. RIP Zelene.”